Interior, Camera-Based Driver Monitoring Systems (DMSs) for Automotive Safety

All too often, vehicular accidents result from a distracted driver, claiming 3,522 lives in the United States in 2021. Whether the driver is looking down to text, experiencing extreme levels of fatigue after a long day at work, or exhibiting some other unsafe behavior, these sometimes tragic cases could be avoidable if the driver were concentrating more closely. Over the last 10 years or so, the automotive industry has focused on integrating active safety systems that detect hazardous situations outside the vehicle. However, this concept has extended to detecting hazardous situations from within the vehicle through camera-based Driver Monitoring Systems (DMSs). As will be explained later in this post, these technologies will also include broader Occupant Monitoring System (OMS) applications, so that automakers can provide a transformative driving experience for all passengers.

Growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 21%, ABI Research expects camera-based DMS/OMS shipments to increase from 15 million in 2023 to 83.5 million in 2032. This will equate to a market valuation of US$3.2 billion by the end of the forecast window.


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What Is a Driver Monitoring System?

A driver monitoring system is a camera-based automotive safety technology that detects driver alertness and issues warnings to prevent distractions or potential road accidents. A DMS falls under the broader Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) category. Modern driver monitoring systems use in-vehicle infrared camera sensors to gauge driver fatigue, eye gaze, facial gestures, and other visual cues that suggest risky driver behavior. For example, a DMS can detect when a driver looks down at a smartphone, prompting an alert to the digital display.

How a Camera-Based DMS/OMS Improves Vehicle Safety

Legacy vehicle safety technologies gather insight into the driver’s mental state by focusing on inputs such as steering patterns and braking behavior. However, newer DMS solutions augment vehicle safety by leveraging low-cost cameras to track eyelid movement, gaze direction, body position (arms, heads, nose), and mouth movements. This helps the vehicle safety system determine driver attentiveness, fatigue, and readiness.

With these semantically rich insights, the DMS can determine if the driver can manage the wheel safely. DMS cameras are typically deployed on the digital dashboard, steering wheel column, head unit/center stack, or in the rearview mirror (assess the trade-offs of each DMS integration method in the whitepaper Integrating Driver Monitoring Systems).

If it’s determined that the driver is conducting unsafe behavior (e.g., falling asleep/drowsiness, looking away from the road, etc.), other ADAS safety mechanisms will kick in, such as automatically adjusting the sensitivity of Automated Emergency Braking (AEB) systems or lengthening the distance between vehicles. Some DMS solutions can measure the heart rate, gauge the driver's emotional state, and determine if the driver should control the vehicle.

In summary, the DMS adds greater certainty that a driver is, in fact, at risk of a road accident before activating automatic vehicle safety mechanisms. Moreover, in-cabin cameras can add richer context to the driver’s mental state than traditional ADAS technologies, which are focused on external factors.

An Occupant Monitoring System (OMS) is a highly related vehicle safety solution to a DMS, and can provide child and pet detection. In-vehicle sensing and monitoring technologies are being used to detect signs of life, such as a heartbeat, to ensure children and pets are not left behind in a locked car. If they are, the driver will be alerted via mobile notification. ABI Research notes that 60 Gigahertz (GHz) radar sensors are a critical OMS technology for this vehicle safety application due to being capable of detecting signs of life through occlusions like clothing and blankets.

Automotive Safety Regulations Push the Pedal for Camera-Based DMS/OMS Adoption

Camera-based driver monitoring systems will eventually unlock non-safety/infotainment applications in future vehicle models, but safety regulations drive adoption. Safety agencies like the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the European Commission’s (EC) General Safety Requirements (GSRs) are crucial to pushing life-saving vehicle technologies. DMS/OMS solutions are at the forefront of proposed solutions.

In Europe, the DMS/OMS market will be stimulated by GSR 2 and Euro NCAP 2023. The former will require carmakers to implement a DMS in every vehicle sold to recognize driver distraction and fatigue. Moreover, Euro NCAP 2023 will elevate the capabilities of vehicle safety systems, resulting in camera-based driver monitoring becoming more widespread in consumer and commercial vehicles.

Looking beyond the horizon and into 2024/2025 and onward, OMS solutions will also become more prevalent in Europe. This will be due to the introduction of a Child Presence Detection (CPD) system that will require the fitment of systems that directly monitor the presence of children in the rear seats. After detecting a child in an adult-less vehicle, the CPD system takes measures to warn the driver. CPD will further shape the configuration of in-cabin direct monitoring systems, prioritizing sensor placements that allow for robust coverage of the entire vehicle.

However, the United States will mandate vehicle child detection technology before Europe. The Hot Cars Act, passed in 2021, stipulates that vehicle manufacturers embed a similar child detection system within 2 years that alerts drivers about a child left behind in a vehicle. As the name suggests, this regulation aims to prevent hyperthermia-related child deaths, of which the U.S. experienced 990 between 1990 and 2020. The U.S. Department of Transportation must make a finalized ruling by November 2023 to facilitate the new in-cabin safety regulation.

DMS/OMS Market Dynamics

The camera-based DMS/OMS market can be broken down into two camps: 1) systems that are focused on meeting GSR 2 or basic automotive safety ratings agency requirements, and 2) systems focused on providing transformative non-safety features (e.g., video conferencing) for brand differentiation. Undoubtedly, the case for interior camera-based driver monitoring systems will primarily stem from gauging a driver’s state of mind through detecting gaze, blinking patterns, head pose, arm and body position, and other physical cues to gauge driver readiness. However, the DMS market will eventually extend to occupant monitoring applications, delivering a richer automotive experience for all passengers. Besides sharing some similar detection and seat belt compliance features of DMSs, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) will increasingly implement OMS technologies that detect if a child, pet, or object is left behind in a car. Moreover, drivers will be alerted if an unauthorized user has accessed the vehicle.

All the while, an interior camera-based DMS/OMS brings the benefit of cost savings for OEMs. OEMs have traditionally relied on various legacy sensors and pressure pads to monitor steering patterns, braking behavior, seat occupancy, and other automotive safety inputs. These solutions, which quickly run up a Bill of Materials (BOM), can all be replaced with a single in-cabin camera and radar sensor. It’s been reported that some OEMs are keen to adopt in-cabin radar entirely due to long-term cost savings advantages.

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